Using a Step Back as a Savvy Career Move

sydney opera house - surreal steps
Image by Chewy Chua via Flickr

Amanda is an attorney. She spent 10 years building a successful solo practice. At what seemed like the pinnacle of her success, her life shifted dramatically. Her husband, Joe,  lost his job and they lived in a state that had been decimated by the down economy long before the rest of the nation.  Joe received great offers from out of state and the couple decided to relocate.

In a new state awaiting admission to the state bar, Amanda took a job as a legal secretary.  Nearly, a year later she was sworn in by the supreme court and now had to face a tough market with tough questions about her “backward career move.”

Illness, family crises, and layoffs are just a few of the reasons that professionals have had to take a step back in their career. Taking a lower position does not necessarily signal the death of your career dreams.  A step back with the right strategy can be leveraged in your favor.

Amanda could have chosen to not work while she waited for admission to the bar, instead she chose a large well established firm in her new city. She was exposed to different areas of practice while keeping her legal knowledge and skills fresh. Her bosses became champions of the plucky attorney with the great attitude, and offered to make introductions to colleagues in the area.

If you find that you need to take a step back, consider using it as to break into a new area / specialty or to learn new skills. Rather than viewing it as a negative own it! See is as an opportunity rather than as a “forced choice.”

Interview with confidence and be ready to tell your story with a positive attitude. Your step down can actually be a huge step up in your career!

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  • Karen,

    This is excellent advice! Thanks for sharing this story, which really is an example of the triumph of the human spirit over career adversity! We definitely have a choice in these situations: We can either feel sorry for ourselves and do nothing, or we can see them as temporary detours along our journey that will take us to other interesting places as we continue the push toward our ultimate destination.

    Attitude is (at least) half the battle!

    Thanks for an uplifting post!

    • Karen Swim

      Jeanne, thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts! Attitude is half the battle, and it’s funny the older I get the more this is reaffirmed!